When we launched FrontPoint, I spoke with prospective customers every day – over time, thousands of you. The questions ran the full gamut of alarm technology, and since we were introducing 100% wireless and cellular monitoring, plus interactive features and even video services, these were often long calls. Looking back, I must have addressed just about every alarm question multiple times, with one notable exception: two-way voice. I think the two-way topic only came up once or twice in those thousands of calls, because outside the alarm companies themselves, few people even know what two-voice is, or how it works.
What is Two-Way Voice?
Two-way voice is an alarm system feature that was introduced when almost 100% of home alarm systems used a standard phone line to communicate the alarm signal. The feature allowed a monitoring station operator to communicate with the subscriber using a speaker and microphone built directly into the alarm system keypad. With these “old school” systems, the alarm system “seized” the phone line so the control panel could dial out to the monitoring center to send the alarm signal. Since the home phone line often remained engaged while the monitoring center was trying to call the home to verify an alarm, the monitoring center could get a busy signal – and would send the police, even if there was no need. The results: false alarm fines, unhappy subscribers, and alarm companies looking for a solution. Two-way voice solved the problem – until the world changed.
How We’ve Outgrown It
Remember, when two-way voice was “hot,” there was no VoIP (think Vonage), cell phones were used primarily in cars, and monitoring centers only had one number to call – the home phone. Any technology that could reduce false alarms was considered a good thing, but the real beneficiaries were the alarm companies themselves. And today two-way voice is less relevant than ever: here are just a few reasons:
- People are getting rid of land lines at a tremendous rate – roughly 700,000 lines a month (see my blog on this topic).
- Two-way does not work over VoIP, and only with special equipment over a cellular connection – and the best systems today rely on cellular monitoring, because it’s the safest and most reliable method of alarm communication.
- There is far less dependence on the home phone line for alarm verification, since monitoring centers now require two numbers (and one of them is almost certain to be a cell number, if not both). This means the phone line “contention” issue has virtually disappeared.
- Most monitoring centers charge an alarm company more for two-way voice monitoring – and that cost is usually passed on: to you, the subscriber.
- Most burglaries happen during the day when you are less likely to be home – which makes two-way voice (in those cases where it does make a difference) even less relevant.
In other words, this is a feature that once had its day, but the alarm industry has moved on. I used to recommend this feature strongly – fifteen years ago. Today’s systems, especially those sold by FrontPoint, are safer, smarter, simpler, and more affordable, and use technology that renders old solutions unnecessary. As the leader in interactive, wireless home security, we’re proud to bring you the features that really make a difference. That’s the FrontPoint way!